U.S. consumer confidence weak, but ticks up slightly, according
to RBC CASH Index
NEW YORK, March 12, 2009 — Despite mounting
job losses and a stock market spiraling toward a 12-year low,
U.S. consumer sentiment edged up this month according to the
most recent results of the RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and
Spending by Household) Index. The survey, which measured the
attitudes of 1,000 Americans earlier this week, found that
consumer sentiment remained very low, but stable. As a result,
the overall RBC CASH Index stands at 8.2 for March 2009, up
slightly from 1.6 in February, the lowest level on record
since the inception of the Index in 2002.
"Consumer confidence looks to be trying to find a bottom,"
said Larry Miller, managing director, RBC Capital Markets.
"The March improvement taken together with the stabilization
of spending intentions we've seen in our restaurant and other
consumer surveys and in the Institute for Supply Management
(ISM) may suggest the consumer has dialed back its spending
to a level that is reflective of the current macroeconomic
realities. Holding these levels will be key to restoring investor
The RBC CASH Index is a monthly national survey of consumer
attitudes on the current and future state of local economies,
personal finance situations, savings and confidence to make
large investments. The Index is composed of four sub-indices:
RBC Current Conditions Index; RBC Expectations Index; RBC
Investment Index; and, RBC Jobs Index. The Index is benchmarked
to a baseline of 100 assigned at its introduction in January
2002. This month's findings are based on a representative
nationwide sample of 1,000 U.S. adults polled from March 5-9,
2009, by survey-based research company Ipsos Public Affairs.
The margin of error was ±3.1 per cent.
Highlights of the survey results include:
- The RBC Current Conditions Index rallied
to 14.8, up 13.2 points compared to February's 1.6 record-low
level. Currently, 35 per cent of Americans rate their personal
finances as weak, down from 39 per cent last month. Consumers'
evaluations of the current state of their local economy
also improved this month as nearly half of Americans (48
per cent) rated their local economy as weak, down from 54
per cent in February.
- Consumers' overall opinions regarding investing also edged
up this month. The RBC Investment Index, which
was at 17.6 in February, currently stands at 24.6. Most
of the increase in investment confidence stems from improvements
in consumers' financial conditions, although consumers are
still anxious. And, despite the plunge in the value of the
stock market, the number of Americans who believe it is
a "bad time" to invest in the stock market held
steady at 70 per cent this month.
- With unemployment rates creeping to their highest levels
in two decades, the RBC Jobs Index dropped
to an all-time low of 40.8, down from 42.3 in February.
The decline in American's job security confidence is led
by real experiences in job loss. Nearly two-thirds (64 per
cent) of Americans say that they or someone in their close
circle has lost their job in the past six months due to
the economy, up from 62 per cent last month.
- Although still in negative territory, the RBC Expectations
Index held steady in March, ticking up just 2.2
points to - 25.9, up from - 28.1 last month. This month,
31 per cent of Americans say they expect their personal
financial situation to improve over the next six months,
a decrease from 33 per cent in February. Confidence in the
recovery of local economies is more mixed; one-in-three
(30 per cent) consumers believe the local economy will strengthen
in the next six months, nearly one in four (38 per cent)
believe it will stay about the same and one in three (30
per cent) believe it will weaken.
The entire RBC CASH Index report can be viewed at: www.rbc.com/newsroom/rbc-cash-index.html.
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Loretta A. Healy, The Hubbell Group, Inc., (781) 878-8882
Kevin Foster, RBC, (212) 428-6902